Winter 2016

Timely, relevant and credible safety and security advice “by design”

By Dr. Mark Williamson

In the Fall 2015 issue of CSSP Connect, I outlined the three key streams of work at Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS): building and accessing networks; identifying, investing in and transitioning innovation to end-users; and the provision of advice to government. In this article, I want to share with you our efforts to enhance and evolve our role in the “provision of advice – by design.” What I mean here is that DRDC CSS is deliberately creating (or designing) the conditions needed to optimize the provision of timely and credible advice. This will enable us not only to respond to, but to anticipate the needs of our clients relating to evidence-based knowledge and advice across the complex safety and security landscape, both domestic and international.

The current DRDC CSS advisory posture enables us to generate and provide advice in two ways: in response to specific, one-off requests or through the deliberate development of evidence-based knowledge and subsequent formulation of advice as part of our project investments. As needed, we reach into our networks and communities, and/or into existing or past CSSP projects to draw on internal and external expertise.

Although this has, by all accounts, served the safety and security community well so far, we recognize that we could have an even greater impact on safety and security decision-making. This is essential for the CSSP to deliver on its ultimate outcome, which aims to ensure that Canada’s public safety and security systems are evidence-informed, interconnected and resilient. We must design and facilitate the machinery that will enable us to deliver this greater impact. To this end, ongoing DRDC CSS efforts are focused in three areas:

  1. At the project/activity level, we are institutionalizing efforts and mechanisms to maximize the impact of advice generated through DRDC CSS S&T efforts. All CSSP projects and activities require a well-defined set of deliverables and must clearly identify and sometimes work with the intended end-user(s). We have now begun to build on these criteria by asking questions such as: Beyond the intended end-user, who else needs to be aware of the results? What positive or negative impacts are anticipated? What decisions/policies may be influenced by the results? In what form should the results be distributed and communicated? How do these results shape next steps?
  2. At the strategic planning guidance level, we are looking at each of the four focus areas (Resilient Critical Infrastructure, Seamless Borders, Operator Capability, Resilient Communities) to capture known and/or anticipated advisory needs at both the operator and strategic decision-making levels. This knowledge will be derived from our networked linkages to government, non-government and international safety and security actors, and will also be validated through our program governance construct. 
  3. At the domestic and international engagement level, we are developing an issues- based situational awareness and information-sharing construct with a number of partners and allies so that leadership decisions for rapidly emerging safety and security issues/events are supported by access to the full spectrum of national and international expertise, capabilities and knowledge relevant to the event.

By establishing the generation and dissemination of advice as one of the three key CSSP functions, we are seeking to better serve the requirements of Canada’s safety and security decision-making processes. Specifically, this will:

  • broaden access to evidence and advice from across the innovation system, domestically and internationally;
  • better align the S&T tempo with that of the policy and operational communities;
  • more effectively transition knowledge/technology to the end-user;
  • assist in delivering timely, credible and validated/trusted advice;
  • provide clearer linkages between the evidence source and decision-making requirement at both strategic and operational levels;
  • improve responsiveness to rapidly developing issues/events; and
  • enable the development of anticipatory evidence/advice.

Collectively, we believe that these measures will contribute significantly to making Canada’s safety and security systems evidence-based, interconnected and resilient.

Dr. Mark Williamson is the Director General of Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS).

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MASAS and CanOps transition will be a big step in improving situational awareness in Canada

By Jack Pagotto and Martina Babiakova

Disasters and emergencies can strike anytime and anywhere. When they do, responses must be cooperative and timely. The most important factor is being as aware as possible of all aspects of the situation, in order to plan and execute the most appropriate response. This is what the first responder community refers to as “Situational awareness” or SA for short.

SA is the capacity to identify, process, and comprehend critical information; simply put, it’s about knowing what is going on around you. People such as first responders, incident commanders, or emergency managers who work in critical environments are highly dependent on SA information to make decisions and perform their duties. Different organizations across Canada use different SA tools and these tools don’t necessarily “talk” to each other. As a result, SA can often become a challenge in high risk situations, such as shootings or natural disasters. It is essential to improve interoperability and ensure a more efficient and effective response.

That is why, in 2011, Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS), in partnership with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and Public Safety Canada launched the Multi-Agency Situational Awareness System (MASAS) pilot project through funding from the DRDC-led Canadian Safety and Security Program.


MASAS is a broad multi-organizational and federally-led initiative that aims to improve the sharing of location-based SA information and alerts among various multi-jurisdictional response and emergency management agencies. It is a collection of systems that exchange real-time, location-based emergency information.

Through the pilot project, registered users can use MASAS software to post, consume and share SA information with other users for free. It has an open structure, meaning that the information exchanged is not of a sensitive nature and the distribution of information is quick and easy.

“When we began this project, we recognized the importance and the potential impact it could have. It was only once the project was in full swing that we fully realized just how much interest and participation it was getting. Over 500 Canadian and U.S. organizations (governmental and non-governmental) connected with each other through the pilot project and new members join on a regular basis,” said Philip Dawe, A/Section Head, Multi-Agency Crisis Management, DRDC CSS.

When first responders are in the early stages of a response, they may not know the full scope of danger and potential risks, and they need vital information. MASAS can help provide this by enabling the posting of information from diverse authoritative sources, including natural hazard alerts, health alerts, weather forecasts, road closures, search and rescue activity, hazardous material, and situational reports, as well as photos, maps and charts.

Since 2011, MASAS has been used in a variety of settings, including training and exercises, and even in real life situations such as the Alberta floods in 2013 and the 2015 forest fires in Kelowna, B.C.

“For Kelowna Fire and our Central Okanagan Regional Emergency Program, MASAS has been our go-to source for situational awareness every day in Dispatch and vitally essential when our Emergency Operations Centre is staffed up,” said Brian R. Moore, Dispatch Supervisor/Deputy Emergency Program Coordinator, Kelowna Fire Department. “Both rely on each other to share timely information using automated pushes of information into MASAS, and both are heavy consumers of the ever-increasing sources found in MASAS.”

MASAS has also been integrated in many exercises over the years. For example, it was a key component of the second and third Canada-United States Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE) series. This is a collaborative effort between DRDC CSS, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate and Public Safety Canada to demonstrate cross border information exchange in support of the Beyond the Border Action Plan.

MASAS was also tested in the fall of 2015 as part of a multi-jurisdictional exercise in Newfoundland and Labrador, which was led by the City of St. John’s Fire and Emergency Services. The scenario was a fictional hurricane hitting a major population centre.

“In a very short period of time, we built a very accurate and complete picture of what was happening on the ground and as the situation developed, the power of MASAS became apparent,” said Major Michael Bennett, Provincial Liaison Officer to Newfoundland and Labrador who participated in the exercise for the Canadian Armed Forces. “For the average person, it may not make a whole lot of difference but it will make a huge difference when key decision makers can understand what’s happening and make timely decisions about resource allocations during a crisis.”

“As we worked through the fictional scenario, MASAS gave us a wide-angle view of the situation so we could see which areas were hardest-hit and required the most attention. It was also a great means of ensuring we stayed in contact with all of our various partners because we could see who was adding and updating information, and who was not that we should call,” said Bill Collins, Regional Emergency Management Planning Officer at Fire and Emergency Services in Newfoundland and Labrador. “When you have so many different levels of government and other partners who need to work together to address an emergency, it’s invaluable having a tool that breaks down barriers to sharing information.”

“For more than four years, MASAS has demonstrated its impact through training, exercises and many real-world incidents,” adds Dawe. “Its value and potential for improving planning, response and interoperability has been recognized across Canada.”


Given the large number of participants using the tool, a key element was ensuring that MASAS could be developed into a permanent, national capability beyond the pilot project. To further this transition, DRDC CSS has established a service agreement with the Canadian Public Safety Operations Organization (CanOps). CanOps is a national not-for-profit corporation that provides the public safety community with operational capabilities that facilitate public safety achievements. Senior public safety officials, serving in the role of CanOps Governing Members, select the capabilities offered and supported by CanOps.

The first part of this transition, which started in September 2015, is focused on CanOps assuming full responsibility for governance and business operations management. The final part of transition will focus on CanOps assuming responsibility for the technical operations and evolution of the MASAS capability.

“CanOps will fill a longstanding operational gap in the national public safety community and provide MASAS with a natural national home where it can benefit from senior public safety official governance,” said Duane McKay, CanOps Governing Members Chair and Fire Commissioner for Saskatchewan.

Ultimately, the project team hopes to transition MASAS from a federally funded pilot project into a fully independent, ongoing, self-sustainable national capability under CanOps.

“Everyone working on this project put a lot of hard work into it, and the value and importance of MASAS has proven to be exceptional. This is why the transition to CanOps is particularly important- it ensures the future of MASAS is in good hands,” said Dr. Mark Williamson, Director General of DRDC CSS. “It’s also a great example of how government funded S&T can be transitioned to and sustained by the end-user operational community that has the mandate to protect Canadian lives and livelihoods.”

Jack Pagotto, now retired, spent years championing and supporting the development of the MASAS and many other key national interoperability initiatives through various projects and activities while working at DRDC CSS. Martina Babiakova is currently undertaking her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Carleton University and working at DRDC CSS through the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP).

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Operation INTERSECT: Working together to ensure a safe and secure National Capital Region

By Kevin Logue

Canada’s National Capital Region (NCR) represents a unique and challenging jurisdiction for public safety and emergency management professionals. In addition to being the seat of our federal government, the NCR encompasses two provinces, two major cities, national and international government institutions and a number of iconic landmarks. As Canada’s capital, the region hosts numerous high-profile events, visits and demonstrations each year. In light of these challenges, the NCR benefits from a collaborative approach to public safety and emergency preparedness.

For many years, the Operation INTERSECT program has brought together organizations from the private and public sectors within   the NCR to share intelligence, to coordinate planning and training, and to assist in emergency response. Established in 2006 and enhanced in late 2008, Operation INTERSECT’s primary mission is to ensure partners are aware of any emergency or potential threat and provide a forum where they can work together to strengthen the NCR’s ability to deal with natural and human‐caused disasters or other emergencies. One of the program’s main goals is to provide decision makers with accurate and timely information that will allow them to make better operational decisions.

Through the program (currently chaired by the Ottawa Police Service, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Ville de Gatineau), partners have established strong working relationships and straightforward protocols to enhance information sharing and situational awareness.

“INTERSECT allows for more complete awareness of events and threats that might affect our regional community, and allows us to respond accordingly,” says Jacques Rathwell of the Ville de Gatineau’s Office of Emergency Management and one of the Operation INTERSECT chairs. “It gives us access to knowledge and information that we might not otherwise have. This kind of information sharing allows for better planning, better resource management, and better response to events and threats in the National Capital Region.”

Over the past five years, Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS) has played an important role in advancing some of the core initiatives of the INTERSECT program. Since August 2013, DRDC CSS has been supporting INTERSECT through the Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP) with a targeted investment project called the Intersect Situational Awareness Network (iSAN).

iSAN is a secure web portal that allows responders at the scene of an event to provide live updates from their mobile phones, computers or tablets. Partner agencies receive timely alerts and are able to act on and/or quickly communicate new developments to other users, thus improving overall interoperability and coordination.

“The CSSP is committed to developing science and technology solutions so that public safety and security professionals have the tools they need to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible. Supporting tools such as iSAN allows these professionals to improve communications during an incident, resulting in a more coordinated response and a safer situation for both the responders and the general public,” said Philip Dawe, Head of Multi-Agency Crisis Management at DRDC CSS.

The NCR is the first region in Canada to implement this approach to situational awareness. After more testing, use and evaluation, the goal is to share the system as a program model to be used in other jurisdictions across the country.

It is expected that numerous organizations in the NCR will use iSAN, including local, provincial and national police services in Ottawa and Gatineau, municipal governments, first responders, private-sector partners, and federal departments.

“We realized that in a region as large as the NCR, information can often get lost or misinterpreted during emergencies and lower-risk incidents,” says Kevin Logue, Program Manager of Operation INTERSECT and Project Manager of the iSAN initiative. “In order to improve public safety and better protect our citizens and visitors, and to create a safer environment, we need to be able to share information quickly and effectively to provide a more coordinated response.”

“When it comes to ensuring the safety and security of our National Capital Region, we need to achieve an approach that is comprehensive, integrated and seamless,” says Gabrielle Duschner, Director of Planning, Government Operations Centre housed in Public Safety Canada, and member of the iSAN steering committee and Operation INTERSECT. “By working with our partners and by facilitating the exchange of definite and timely situational information, the Government Operations Centre is helping to build a National Capital Region that is resilient to emerging hazards and threats.”

The support being provided by the CSSP in moving Operation INTERSECT’s initiatives forward assists all partner agencies in their day-to-day operations. These types of partnerships enhance information sharing and planning, which results in better decision-making and ensures that all agencies in the NCR are well positioned to handle any emergencies or threats in the future.

Kevin Logue is a civilian member of the Ottawa Police Service and Program Manager of Operation INTERSECT.

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